Sullom Voe losing ship to ship oil transfer business to Orkney

Sullom Voe is missing out to Orkney on ship to ship oil transfers and should be more proactive in seeking business, a meeting of the harbour board heard on Wednesday.

Sullom Voe has had just nine ship to ship transfers since 2004, whereas Orkney has had 10 in 2009 alone.

There are four jetties at the port of Sullom Voe, all with their designated uses. Ship to ship transfers are carried out at Jetty 4, which is currently unavailable due to the replacement of the tower. Since this work began the port potentially lost four ship to ship operations to Orkney with a loss of a minimum of £75,000. Work on the jetty should be completed next week.

The other jetties could possibly be used but SVT partners would not allow that without a letter of indemnity. Concerns are damage to the jetty and the possibility of a fee being charged if the operation delayed another vessel.

A letter of indemnity is currently being negotiated by BP and SIC legal teams, but head of ports and harbours Roger Moore said things were not moving as quickly as he would like.

Another problem is BP’s strict vetting system of ships entering the port, whether or not they are loading or discharging cargo.

Currently jetties 1 and 2 are used for LPG, Brent, Ninian and Clair cargoes, with the addition of LPG at Jetty 1. Jetty 3 is used for Schiehallion. Operators have exclusive use of “their” jetties, but the meeting discussed the possibility of changing that to preferential, rather than exclusive use, thus freeing up capacity.

Lack of use could also lead to the fendering company taking its equipment away, the meeting heard.

Captain Moore said that operators of ship to ship transfers that had taken place at the port had been very satisfied, but potential customers kept running into “roadblocks”.

Members agreed there was a “can-do” feeling in Orkney, whereas in Shetland there was “always a problem”.

Chairman of the board Alastair Cooper pointed out the advantage of Shetland, saying that SVT offered a very safe operation, being able to put a vessel alongside a jetty rather than “two ships bumping each other”.

Meanwhile, the board also heard that more people could be drafted in to provide back-up for Sullom Voe tug crews to allow them to take up work outwith the port.

Capt Moore said that when tugs were not involved with tankers they could carry out other work, but there was a problem getting manpower.

Tugs had a crew of four on a normal basis but there have to be two additional crew members on board if the vessels leave the harbour.

He said that agency staff could be used but would have to be brought into the isles and then have safety training.

Board member Betty Fullerton said she was concerned that tugs were not able to be deployed elsewhere when there was a downturn at Sullom Voe. She said there was now a “huge number” of young men with Merchant Navy training in

Shetland and this would be a “golden opportunity” to put together a pool of people to form a bank of available staff.
“We should be more innovative,” she said.

Capt Moore said he had already spoken to human resources about this, and people interested could have a day’s initial training and be kept on the books.


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